Big Head Press

L. Neil Smith's
Number 596, November 21, 2010

"Protecting our lives by depriving us of
any reason we might have for living them"

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The Owner of the Deed
by L. Neil Smith

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Attribute to The Libertarian Enterprise

When I was a young shiny-faced activist in the antiwar movement of the 1960s (and a lone libertarian among leftists of every imaginable variety), there was an extremely popular folksong going around called "Universal Soldier". Written and sung by Buffy Sainte-Marie, it may have been the only thing the woman ever wrote that I agreed with completely.

And still do.

The gist of "Universal Soldier" is that it's useless to deal with leaders—politicians, bureaucrats, generals—if we want to put an end to the insane wars that endlessly, one after another, have stripped away any hope we may have had to live in peace, freedom, progress, and prosperity.

The politicians, bureaucrats, and generals don't give a damn what any of us might think, feel, or want. We aren't real to them, not real human beings, and they're no more interested in our opinions than they would be interested in what cartridges might think as they're loaded into magazines. We are resources, economic, physical, or we are just obstacles—the reason that they attach blades to the fronts of bulldozers.

From time to time, politicians have to pretend to care—they recently learned another lesson about that—but sooner or later, until we manage to change the course of history, they'll go back to using people up and throwing them away, as they have for thousands of years.

Buffy Sainte-Marie's idea was to tackle the problem at the other end, the guys with mud on their feet and pointy sticks in their hands. She didn't pull any punches. War, her song proposes, is first and foremost the fault of those willing to go and fight. War would be impossible if there wasn't anybody to participate. One thing's for absolute certain, the politicians, bureaucrats, and generals sure as hell won't. War is an old man's game, but the game pieces are young men.

Similarly, you can't have a police state if there aren't any police. Just as there are those who fawn smarmily over Americans who let themselves be shipped overseas to drop bombs on pregnant widows and ten-year-old goatherds, to destroy civilizations that were fully formed and beautiful when our ancestors were running naked through the woods and painting themselves blue, and to burn villages in order to save them, there are others for whom the police can never do anything wrong.

I call them "copsuckers".

All of this came to mind the other day when I was listening to a radio talk show and the host—a military toady and copsucker of the first water—took a call from a woman whose husband works for the badly misnamed Transportation Safety Administration. In her nice, average white suburban voice, she informed the host that her husband had been in this business for nearly a decade, protecting our lives (by depriving us of any reason we might have for living them). Keeping us safe from criminals and fanatics (who aren't in a position to do one tenth the damage to the American spirit and way of life that the bullyboys, porn-scanners, wand-rapists, and nad-grabbers do every day).

The parenthetical remarks, of course, are entirely mine. The fact is, this woman's husband and his vile cohorts are doing the very thing that made the September 11th hijackings and the disaster that followed inevitable. It is exactly like forcing drugs on a person to suppress his immune system, and then shoving him into an infectious disease ward.

"Do you think my husband likes doing what he does?" the agent's wife asked. Of course he does, or he wouldn't have kept doing it for ten years. I'm sure the guards at Nazi concentration camps had wives who would have called in to talk shows to defend them if it had been possible. At some point, crazy, stupid, and evil get to be a way of life.

Talk all you like about Barack Obama, George Bush, Janets Reno and Napolitano. They are loathsome without doubt and I hope to see them, someday, occupying a suite of cells in a new prison on Alcatraz built especially to house those convicted of committing crimes against the Constitution.

But our job, what we must do, is persuade those doing the business of these loathsome creatures to stop. They're not protecting their families, friends, and neighbors, that's a bizarre and demented lie. The ugly truth is, they're destroying everything it once meant to be American.

Each of them is what Robert LeFevre called "the owner of the deed". It won't work for them to claim they're only doing what they were ordered to do. That hasn't worked since 1945, when we hanged Nazi soldiers and bureaucrats who tried to make that defense. There is no duty to obey an unlawful order. In fact, under both the Nuremberg Tribunals and the Uniform Code of Military Justice, it is a criminal offense.

And now it must stop.

It's unquestionably true that we are living in hard times, and that a great many people today are afraid of losing their jobs. Even their crazy, stupid, and evil jobs. But the times are hard right now precisely because—when it was most important—individuals lacked the integrity and courage to stop those who were intent making them hard.

Principles are not for when it's easy. If they were, then Barack Obama could have principles. George W. Bush could have principles. Even Bob Barr and Wayne Allyn Root could have principles. Principles are there to guide us morally when it's most difficult to find our way, and remaining consistent with them, no matter what, is what we call integrity.

Likewise, courage is not a matter of not being afraid, but of moving ahead when you are most afraid, and doing the right thing anyway.

How courageous are you?

Four-time Prometheus Award-winner L. Neil Smith has been called one of the world's foremost authorities on the ethics of self-defense. He is the author of more than 25 books, including The American Zone, Forge of the Elders, Pallas, The Probability Broach, Hope (with Aaron Zelman), and his collected articles and speeches, Lever Action, all of which may be purchased through his website "The Webley Page" at

Ceres, an exciting sequel to Neil's 1993 Ngu family novel Pallas is currently running as a free weekly serial at

Neil is presently at work on Ares, the middle volume of the epic Ngu Family Cycle, and on Where We Stand: Libertarian Policy in a Time of Crisis with his daughter, Rylla.

See stunning full-color graphic-novelizations of The Probability Broach and Roswell, Texas which feature the art of Scott Bieser at Dead-tree versions may be had through the publisher, or at where you will also find Phoenix Pick editions of some of Neil's earlier novels. Links to Neil's books at are on his website


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